image caption: Gurmukh Singh

Sikh Experience of Institutional Racism and Cronyism in Public Service

Conclusions of the prolonged Daniel Morgan murder investigation into Scotland Yard remind UK Sikhs of their own experience in dealing with public servants and ministers. Civil servants work across departments and any form of institutional weaknesses and biases in the State system are unlikely to be isolated. The Sikh interest is in evidence to show institutional bias against diversity.

A lawyer wrote, &ldquoThe State and political powers prefer to deal with a uniform set of rules, values and ideas and tend to conspire against diverse cultures, religions and traditions.&rdquo (Sikh lawyer Sukhvinder Thandi) So, is there evidence that State political powers &ndash ministers and civil servants &ndash actually &ldquoconspire against diversity&rdquo represented by the distinct Sikh community?

Elsewhere, it has been suggested that UK Sikhs should preserve their history and keep a record of the challenges which they have faced in settling down while trying to preserve own religio-social identity. To quote: &ldquoThe Sikhs are a role community and provide an exceptionally interesting example of successful integration whilst maintaining a very visible and distinctive religious identity.&rdquo (The Sikh Manifesto 2015-2020.) In fact, it has been suggested that all Sikh diaspora countries should do the same while earlier generation Sikhs are still around.

Due to long-standing Anglo-Sikh relations, Sikhs expected full legal safeguards for their visible Sikh identity and culture including religious practice. It was precisely the distinctive Sikh identity and what it stood for, which was valued and promoted by colonial Britain. Yet, when Sikhs arrived in the UK after the 1947 partition, they were compelled by economic circumstances to discard their proud Sikh identity. That suggests a failure on the part of UK policy makers to accommodate diversity. The community is unlikely to recover from that early identity loss passed on as negative heritage to next generations. Numerous court battles had to be fought by the more resilient and determined Sikhs to secure even basic rights.

The evidence produced before panels and courts is there because some who stood up to prejudice and racism are still around. All that evidence should be collated and preserved. It takes a prolonged, determined and expensive public inquiry like the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel investigation into police handling of the murder case to expose any wrong doing by public servants. It is important to collate documented evidence of institutional racism, corruption and cronyism over the changing race relation period in the UK over the last 60 years when Sikhs started settling in significant numbers.

For example, in recent years, over half a million British Sikhs have been denied their legal right to be counted and monitored as a distinct ethnic group under the current system. Despite taking the matter to the courts, they have not be allocated own ethnicity (qaumi) tick box in the Census. Leaving aside ignorance about Sikhi Miri-Piri tradition, objections based on trade relations with Indian have been used by some. Unless there is a public investigation into the consultation and decision-making processes in the Office for National Statistics (ONS), British Sikhs will remain totally confused about this issue which seriously affects their rights as a distinct community. That is a wrong against a whole community.

Sikh should take timely steps to preserve own history.

Gurmukh Singh